It started out so simply—you asked your child to get out of the pool. They screamed, ‘NO!’ and an entire pool crowd is suddenly silent and staring at you. Now what? Do you go in and get them? Do you walk away and hope that they’ll come out after you? Or do hope that tomorrow will be better?
Tomorrow will only be better if you have a new plan. Many kids have learned that if they make a loud enough fuss when out in public, they can manipulate their parents into pretty much anything. When parents give in, kids learn that the manipulation works.
To stop the manipulation, you both need a firm idea of what will happen at the end of pool time. Here’s one version of how that can work.
Your child may try to manipulate you again. You now have a clear plan—no second guessing yourself, no yelling. Just get into the pool, get them out and skip the pool the next day (their choice). They’ll be ready to try again after that. Stick to your plan and you’ll never throw in the towel again.
Image of kids in pool from Shutterstock.
Whether it’s eye-to-eye or shoulder-to-shoulder (such as while on a walk or in the car) talking with your kids is vital to creating a connection and doing our job as parents.
Why does this matter?
1. The brain is built by an interactive process known as ‘serve and return’—because it is very much like a game of tennis or volleyball. A child begins with a gesture or sound—the ‘serve’—and you respond with the ‘return’. When parents respond sensitively, a child is surrounded by positive serve and return exchanges which are the building blocks of a healthy brain.
2. In the first eight years of development, our children need to have eye-to-eye conversations so that they can watch us and learn how to move their mouths properly.
3. Older children need this connection because they have lots going on and need to talk about it and process it with someone. If they are not talking with you, they are likely talking with their peers. Their peers may not be able to share the values that you would want to share. Peers also may have expertise in all sorts of things that you would rather your child did not learn.
What if you don’t know what to say?
If you are starting each conversation with ‘How was your day?’ life could get very frustrating very quickly. It takes two to tango and one-word answers like ‘fine’ just don’t make a conversation.
So here are some conversation starters for you:
‘ ____ happened to me today and here’s how I responded to it. Has that ever happened to you? What might you have done?’
‘I heard that ______ is happening in our neighbourhood. Have you heard anything? Do you know anyone who has done that?’
‘What is one thing you really want us to do as a family this holiday break?’
If you find yourself saying, ‘I don’t talk to my kids because I don’t know what to say’, here are some ideas:
1. Consider what you want your kids to be learning.
2. Consider what’s important to you for their future?
3. Make a list of the top ten values that you feel are important for your kids to be living now and in the future. Start talking about them now.
This week, take a look at what’s happening in your family.
If you don’t like what you see, get rid of the guilt and change the behaviour.
Find ways to set your family up for success, by creating small, intentional spaces for conversation and connection.